Azerbaijan International

Autumn 1996 (4.3)
Page 50

Azerbaijan Today
The Way Graphic Artists See It

by Shaig Safarov


SOS: by Etibar Nazarov. All others by Hashim Elichiyev. Question mark symbolizes unknown future status of Nagorno-Karabakh; CCCP in Russian means USSR, symbolizing that the Soviet Union has become a relic of past.

For the past three years, Unocal Khazar has sponsored a poster contest, entitled "Azerbaijan Today," which provides a creative forum for Azeri artists and enthusiasts. Each year, on the eve of May 28, Azerbaijan's National Independence Day, a crowd gathers at the Baku Arts Center on Injesenet Street (Street of Arts) to view the year's portrayal of contemporary life as seen through the eyes of Azerbaijani graphic artists.

These annual exhibitions are becoming a barometer of the society's aspirations. As time passes, the posters seem to indicate that Azerbaijanis are much more optimistic than earlier on after the collapse of the USSR.


For example, one of the posters in 1994 depicted a small, torn umbrella opened over a map of Azerbaijan, symbolizing the collapse of Soviet protection and the country's vulnerability during the first years of independence. In 1996, another poster used the umbrella theme, this time depicting the bright-colored flags of the countries of the AIOC Consortium, showing the hope that oil will bring economic prosperity.

The 1996 Judging Committee, headed by Omar Eldarov, People's Artist of Azerbaijan and the newly-elected President of Baku Arts Center, awarded first place to Hashim Elchiyev. His poster commemorated Vagif Mustafazade, the late jazz pianist and composer who brilliantly synthesized Azerbaijani traditional mugam with American swing. Mustafazade is revered in Azerbaijan not only for his dynamic playing, but for his free spirit despite persecutions during the Soviet era. Now, it seems particularly appropriate that his daughter, Aziza Mustafa Zadeh, carries on his remarkable tradition, as a brilliant jazz musician and performer in her own right.

This year's second place winner, Aydin Ismayilov, depicted an old fragment of Gobustan rock with its characteristic petroglyphs. Gobustan is an early settlement not far from Baku with dozens of rock carvings that date back more than 5,000 years. A sign on the poster reads "For Sale" and urges the protection of Azerbaijan's cultural memorials and national treasures. Increasingly, Azeris are concerned that the privatization of land and buildings, along with the new industrialization fueled by foreign investments could threaten archeological sites of cultural importance. This poster pleads for balance between economic development and cultural and historic preservation.

The third award went to Ismayil Mammadov for his compilation of posters announcing the AIOC / SOCAR sponsored concerts. This monthly series, which is offered free to the public, has breathed life into the musical activity in Baku and resurrected the philanthropic tradition of Baku Oil Barons of the beginning of the century.

Over the years, the posters have reflected some of the most crucial moments of the socio-political life in the newly independent Republic. The art works have since taken on a life of their own, appearing in magazines and newspapers, and helping generate a new set of symbols. Unocal Khazar plans to continue promoting this annual event which reflects the transitions unfolding in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan International (4.3) Autumn 1996.
© Azerbaijan International 1996. All rights reserved.

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